One Immigrant's Story
A lot of people ask Lopez why he came here.
“Sometimes, I don’t understand why I came here.”
Eight years ago, David Lopez was a 27 year-old playing soccer in south Mexico. After the end of the game, his friend ran down from the stands and asked him if he wanted to go to America.
Lopez simply replied OK.
And that year, they crossed the Mexican border to Doraville, Georgia. On the way over, though, his friend had a confession. He didn’t actually want to come to America but he just wanted to see Lopez’s reaction. And Lopez himself didn’t really want to leave Mexico but felt a tinge of embarrassment.
Lopez explained to me that in Mexico, there is value in being a superior man — being a macho hombre.
But now, he is here.
And here, he is lonely.
“Sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m not happy,” Lopez said.
He has installed heating systems for the past seven years. His older brother was deported back to Mexico after three DUIs, leaving his wife and kids behind.
“When you come here, you see the truth,” Lopez said. “When you live in Mexico, I think it is more better. When you live here I think there is more, what is it, oppression?”
Lopez sees a lot of problems living here as a Mexican without family or friends. Back at home, he used to play basketball and soccer regularly.
“When I live in Mexico, I have more freedom,” Lopez said. “[Here] I’m only working and then home, working and then home. You have no time for play. You no have friends.”
Even with all his working hours, he still has difficulties making ends meet (although he does say that he has everything he needs in this country). He has one or two friends from his church, showcasing the manner in which religion facilitates assimilation.
At the end of the day, Lopez’s expectations of this country and the reality just don’t match up.
His mother constantly asks him why he doesn’t come back to Mexico. Even Lopez himself has trouble answering that question.
“Eight years, you know what I mean?” Lopez said. “When you live here, I don’t know, you don’t want to go back.”
Despite his struggles, he feels integrated.
“I learn the people,” Lopez said. “How they live, how you respect the other guys.”
He is no longer afraid or intimidated by the country around him, even though he is an undocumented immigrant. He has been stopped by the police multiple times but has fortunately been able to stay.
One time he didn’t stop at a stop sign and a police pulled him over. The policeman coincidently attended the same church as Lopez and let him go. Lopez laughs about the story as he tells it.
It hasn’t all been so smooth sailing. He has faced his fair share of discrimination.
Once, one of his fellow workers threatened to “call immigration on [him].” He told Lopez to go back to his country. Lopez said he just responded with an “OK.”
“When you come here, you are ready for anything,” he said. “You are ready for discrimination.”